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      05.08.2013 21:17
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      Wanna Get Dirty??

      I am all for re-cycling and I believe that every household should try and do their bit to save the environment. I also believe that local councils make it much easier for us to do this. I grew up in the countryside and moved into my own house around five years ago. I live in a town house, with a fairly small garden, half of which is paved and half of which is lawned. I didn't really pay much attention to my garden for the first few years of living here as to be honest, I was more focused on decorating the inside of the house, and when I moved in, my garden was a total mess. Two years ago, my garden was re-furbished to its current state and this is when I began to take more of an interest in it. Obviously with half of my garden being lawned, the grass needed mowing. I then had the problem of where to put the grass cuttings once this had been done. I decided, for the time being to place the grass cutting in an old Chappie dog food bag that I found it the shed and this is where composting really began for me. A few months after this, my lawn needed moving again and I once again went to place to grass cuttings in the same bag. This is when I discovered a slimy mess in the bag. I Googled composting and soon discovered that I had put too many 'green items' in my compost. The website I visited advised me to mix 'brown items' into the compost to equal it out. I have a shredder in which I shred items that have my address so emptied this out for use. I then put on some gardening gloves and ripped apart the sludge that was already present in the bag, mixing it equally with the shredded paper. After reading a few more websites, I soon thought I had a pretty good idea of how to get going with my composting. General Rules To Composting There are no rules as such, every compost heap will differ depending on what the compost is stored it, where it is stored and other factors. The general rule however, if that you should have a good mix of green and brown items to keep the compost at a decent consistency. Green Items Green items are quick to rot and high in nitrogen (this helps to activate the heating process) and they also provide moisture. I won't list every single green item available but just to give you a general idea, green items include tea bags, grass cuttings, young weeds (before they develop into seeds), fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds and filter paper and old bedding plants. Brown Items Brown items are slower to rot and provide carbon and fibre. They also allow air pockets to form within the compost. Brown items include cardboard, egg boxes, shredded paper, twigs and branches, fallen leaves and old straw and hay. Never Compost Items Obviously, as with anything, there are certain items that you must have compost. Obviously use your common sense but the following items shouldn't be added to your compost pile; meat, mean scraps, plastic or synthetic fibers, oil or fat and pet or human feces (except for manure of herbivorous creatures). The main idea is to layer or mix the various materials in your compost heap so that they come into contact with each other, and also to separate the materials to avoid big clumps and to help the breaking down process. One thing I have learnt is to take special care to ensure large amounts of green items don't get mixed together as this creates what I was talking about earlier - the slimy smelly mess that my grass cutting turned into! Other Factors To Consider When Composting Air is something which is quite important for compost. I stir my compost probably far more regularly than I should do but it allows the contents to be mixed together, as well as trapping air into the mixture, which helps to break the compost down quicker. Water is another important factor in composting. In general, your compost heap should be about as damp as a sponge that has been wrung out. Everybody stores their compost in something different, some with lids, and some without. My compost heap is still in the Chappie back and obviously this doesn't have a lid so I allow the rain to naturally moisten my compost heap, and when it gets too moist, I simply fold the top of the bag over and allow it to dry out a little. I sometimes give it a hand in drying out if it has got particularly wet by adding extra brown materials. It is important to stir your compost, as I already mentioned, up until recently, I stirred my compost almost every day (which I am told by my Dad is too much but worryingly I actually enjoy doing it!!). I guess it is more a case of trial and error until you figure out what works for you and your heap. What To Store Your Compost In You can pretty much store you compost in anything, as I have proven with my polythene bag! Having said that, there are various purpose built containers on the market that you can buy to store you compost in. My Dad has woods behind his garden and his compost is stored directly on the wood floor and is supported either side by wooden pallets. In an ideal world, I would have a wooden compost bin but there are many available, the cheaper ones being plastic. If you contact your local council, they actually offer discounted compost bins to encourage people to start composting. Where To Put Your Compost Ideally, the best place for a compost heap is in a fairly sunny spot. It is also an advantage if you can store your heap on bare soil. Having said that, my compost heap is in a massive poletheyne bag, and I have simply puts lots of drainage holes in the bottom of the bags which allows excess moisture to seep out - but it also allows the all important worms to get in!! If, like me, you are unable to place you compost heap directly onto soil and have to place it on concrete, then place a thin layer of existing compost underneath it. For those of you who are interested, my original compost heap (remember the slimy mush I was talking about) has now turned into beautiful compost at the bottom (and still composting at the top). I don't stir my compost as much now, purely because I have literally a million worms currently living in mine, I think they have decided it would be a nice breeding home for them - and of course, I have no complaints! Conclusion I really would encourage everyone to start their own compost heap. Ok, maybe you don't have to be as enthusiastic as me about it (every time I get a visitor, I bore them with how well my compost is doing!) but I believe that it dramatically reduces the amount of waste my household creates, it provides me with free compost come summer when I want to plant new flowers and it also provides all the bugs and grubs in my garden with somewhere to live and something to eat (I am hoping I can bribe the slugs and snails to 'make do' with my compost rather than eating my beautiful Lilies every summer!). All in all, in case you haven't guessed by now, I thoroughly enjoy composting!

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      08.05.2008 12:35
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      How To Compost

      How to Compost Anyone can compost, it's very easy and helps the environment. Tonnes of garden and kitchen waste are thrown away every year when it could be composted. You can buy lots of different compost bins, mine is a plastic one with a lid and a hole at the bottom with a sliding cover to get your compost out. It is a good idea to have a smaller caddy in your kitchen, so you don't have to keep going to the garden one. Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes so if you only have a small space you could get a smaller one. Making your own compost is a bit like making a recipe for good results you have to get the mix right. Add different types of materials in layers, with not to much of any single material in a layer. A good mix of waste aids decomposition. I have a small bin under my kitchen sink which I fill up with teabags, vegetable and fruit peelings, eggshells, bits of paper and soft cardboard. When this gets full it goes into my big compost bin. To my big compost bin I also add grass cuttings, evergreen clippings, leaves, straw, hay and newspaper. Regularly turning the material in your compost bin will ensure more air gets to the bin and speeds up decomposition. Don't let your compost dry out, if it gets dry in summer you can add water to your compost. Don't put cooked food or meat in your compost bin as this can attract vermin and make your compost smelly. Don't add to many grass cuttings as this will make the compost smelly and slimy. A good tip is when you are adding grass cuttings add in the same amount of straw, cardboard and paper. Compost usually takes 6-9 months until its ready. It turns a nice dark colour, smells sweet and earthy and texture should be fairly fine with most of the bigger bits decomposed. I use my compost all around the garden spreading a layer on flower beds, adding to pots and containers, on fruit and vegetables. You can use your compost as a mulch all around the garden. Even if you only have a small garden or just pots you can add your compost to enrich the soil. Compost is excellent for improving soil and providing vital nutrients for your plants. Home made compost is much better than shop bought compost and it's free. Composting is very easy and it would be great for our environment if more people composted.

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        13.11.2007 16:03
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        Composting responsibly greatly reduces household waste, and is easir than you think

        I was so excited when we moved to our new house two years ago. The house was roomier, the garden was bigger, and it had features that fit our lifestyle very well. Add in the fact that our new council gave every household its own composter, and I was happy. Yes, I had wanted a compost bin for some time. I wanted to be able to compost those veggie peelings and grass and shrub clippings and use the result in my own garden. I happily did this for about two years, until one day while putting out our bin, my six year old asked me why we did not recycle envelopes and cardboard. I explained the reasons to her (our council does not do them), and she asked if they could be composted. I had to admit that excepting for the plastic windows and tape on some items, they could indeed. She then asked me what else we could compost. This then led to a challenge. She wanted to help compost everything possible, recycle everything possible, and see how long it would take to fill or bin or for it to get smelly. Thinking this was a good opportunity to try out for some more green cred, and also teach a lesson on environmental responsibility, I agreed. Egg shells, vegetable peelings, envelopes with the plastic windows torn out, cardboard boxes and card inserts, you name it, if it was safely compostable, we put it in there. I have to admit I was astonished at how quickly my composter filled up, but the very next week, I had more than enough room in it again. Flies? Just a few little fruit flies, under the lid, but no nasty crawlies to be seen. Not having a lot of grass and such to place in during these cooler months, we added some ordinary earth worms. Wow, the pile got smaller and smaller...more room for more stuff! Combined with our kerbside recycling, and the rinsing and crushing of our milk jugs and other recyclable plastic bottles taken by the boxful once a fortnight to the local Tesco recycling point, our rubbish bin looked decidedly forlorn. One biodegradable carrier bag went in after 10 days. Another about a fortnight later, being mostly silica cat litter. No wasted food in this house, and the remaining organic matter primarily consigned to the wormy composter, also meant non smelly bin. More weeks passed, and finally, we had a strip of carpet that got thrown in. Hmmmmm......not even halfway full yet. Six weeks in, and composting these things, added to our recycling scheme, has seemingly made an impact. Amazon deliveries happened. The plastic film was removed, the boxes torn up, and added to the composter. A few forlorn ephemeral pieces of cling film was the only visible wastage from several deliveries. It got to be a bit of a game. Paying more attention to packaging, we looked for things that were bin free in content and if not recyclable, was compostable, or that would take up less space in said bin. In the end, we put our bin out a full 16 weeks later (about 4 months). I was amazed at what an achievement that was for a family of four with two cats, especially with one still in the ocasional night nappy (cloth of course!). Having set an empty ice cream tub next to the kettle and coffee machine, I can tell you we could not have done it without the composter. The ice cream tub would be filled with bread crusts, flour brushed from the counter, tea bags, coffee filters and grounds, peelings, etc. and need to be dumped each evening. Add in the casual way we bin those unrecyclable envelopes, especially given the volume of them we receive rom junk mailings and statements that come with fliers and response envelopes, and what not. Advertisements on card thrust through our doors, consigned casually to the bin when a seconds thought would see it in the kitchen's "compost bucket" (as we called the ice cream tub). It all mounted up amazingly fast, and the void in my bin spoke volumes. I had thought with my kerbside recycling I was doing a good job on helping keep down landfill. Hey, I was only putting out a half empty bin each week! But this little exercise in the full usage of my composter tells me just how much more I could have been doing all along with a minimum of effort. I think it is an effort more of us could make. Never mind if you don't garden and have no use for the compost, offer it on Freecycle. Someone will come take the compost off your hands! This is my experience. I won't bore you will all the how to get starteds, as there are so many different composting solutions to fit every lifestyle, that truly, you need to find out what sits you, and what you then can and can't put into it. You can find that information here: www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/composting/index.html Before buying anything, though, check out your council's website as often they offer free and discounted offers on composters and wormeries.

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          22.07.2007 19:59
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          think about tomorrow today

          Composting is probably one of the first major steps every household should be taking to rid the planet of the enviromental damage we and generations before us have caused, i admit this alone will not rescue our world but certainly it's a very good and easy way to begin. I'm sure everybody is concerned about the effects of global warming and enviromental issue's even if they choose not to discuss it, i for one are becoming more concerned about the world my son will have to grow up in. I've recently obtained a composter which is now in the garden doing it's stuff, they are really easy to get hold of, most local councils can provide these for you for a small price, to my knowledge they generally come in three different sizes, small,medium and large, we have situated ours in amongst some bushes hoping to gain full benefit from what lies beneath. Everytime we peel some fruit and/or veg the peelings are destined to enter the darkness of the composter ready to reused at a later date, this can also be used to educate our children, get them involved they love to help out and if they can do their bit from an early age they will understand the value and importance of recycling. I appreciate there are many other things we should all be doing in attempt to resolve what we have almost runined, but consider this as an easy start.

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            09.09.2005 13:18
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            Composting helps your garden and is enviromentally friendly .

            Our world is dying - too much polution , too much production , too much waste . The effects of the industrial revolution of the late 1800's whilst being over 100 years ago , are now showing the signs of catostrophy . Just think of what has happened since then and imagine the impact for our offspring of the future . Today people are starting to take notice and the buzz words of today are recycling , sustainable and re-usable. Councils are under enormous pressure to encourage recycling and everyone should participate . I do my bit do you ? Living in PLymouth , our council recycles paper , cardboard , plastic and now garden waste . They will even collect household items such as fridges , cookers etc. free of charge and dispose of them in an enviromentally friendly way . Glass is however only recycled via the many scattered bottlebanks . Having both front and back gardens , I have also undertaken composting , so here is a review on composting - hope you enjoy the read . <> What is composting ? <> Composting is natures way of recycling . At its very basic , organic products are dropped onto the ground . Animals eat such products , what remains is broken down naturally and absorbed into the ground , from which its nutrients then pass through to plants and back to us . Home composting harnesses natures abilities to turn most kitchen and garden waste into compost , which inturn is used in the garden , often saving many tens of pounds per year . Traditionally composters have been made using wooden planks to form a four sided fence . Gaps between the planks allow for both drainage and air supply . The top is covered to maintain heat , a tradition with old gardeners is to use old carpet remants as a topper . Modern composters are made from wood , metal or more commonly re-cycled plastic . My own is made of plastic . <> What can you compost ? <> Personal & Household Items - as a general rule if it rots use it , for example hair ( pet and human ) , vacumn cleaner dust . Vegetable and fruit peelings - also include discarded fruit . Tea leaves and coffee grounds and crushed egg shells . Weeds - the composting process will kill most weeds , avoid however brambles and bindweed . Grass cuttings . Paper and cardboard - limit these and scrumple or shred before placing on site. Animal manure from vegetarian pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs - also use the bedding when cleaning out their cages. Evergreen clippings - these however should be used in moderation as they take a long time to rot down . Leaves / prunings etc. / hanging basket contents etc. <> What you can't / shouldn't compost <> Excrement - animal or human . Disposable nappies Waxed or coated paper / card . Stone , metal , glass or platic - they don't rot ! Meat - raw or cooked . Cleaning fluids / garden chemicals * ( * such as weed killer / bleach etc . - there are however natural garden products available to aid a composter start ) . <> Starting / using <> Site your composter in a suitable location , preferably so that it receives some sunlight . Ideally it should be placed on the ground , although it can be placed on an aerated base . If using on concrete , add worms to the composter . Start with a 3"-6" layer of kitchen waste then simply add different types of materials in layers - it is important to a have a good mixture of materials to maximise success . Occasionally turn the contents with a garden fork to aid aeration / composting process . Initially you pile of waste will be high , however nature with its micro organisms and worms will soon work their magic and the pile will reduce in height . Keep your contents warm and moist - never allow them to dry out . Be patient as the process will take between 6-9 months , start now for use next summer . It is satisfying t see how your scraps just disappear , and as they start rotting down, you get a healthy composty smell , which is not too unpleasant. The only drawback I've found so far, is during the summer months , when you lift the lid off your composter to add much waste , you are greeted by munerous small flies . These however do not bite , and the flies themselves aid with the rotting process . <> Where to by a composter <> Most garden centres or large DIY chains should stock a range of composter bins . Also ( as I did ) , check with your local council or water company , as these often have promotions on , which subsidise ther cost of the bins .

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              07.10.2003 18:12
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              Fed up with cheap nasty thin plastic compost "bins" have a vermin problem? no floor? wind keeps blowing the "bin" over? "bin" only composts in hot weather? ended up with black rotting mess in your "bin"? "bin" has lots of flies and ant? neighbour problems complaining about your "bin" smelling? lack of information supplied with your "bin" to help you get started? "bin" helpline? Well know you can get a proper composter in the Uk from a dedicated quality composter company "Greenline" is Swedens best selling composter and are now 20 years in the making of superior "composters" yes composters not "bins"! With tight fitting easy to assemble sides, locking removable lids, tough vermin resistant vented floors and cavity wall insulation makes Greenline composters possibly the best available in the Uk. These composters continue to make super home compost year round even if the outdoor temperature falls to minus -25C. Supplied with a comprehensive 16 page how to compost handbook these composters take some beating. Recommmended by THE TIMES June 2003. As seen in many top gardening magazines and at top gardening shows. If you would like to know more call Greenline on 01530 277924 or visit www.pwsgreenline.co.uk or www.pwsab.se Composter accessories include a great aerator which changes colour to show if your own composter is working! and at £7.99 is superb value for money. Pre-composters, wheelie bins, weed killing devices for instant use and other innovative environmental gardening products...

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                13.05.2003 00:05
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                • "keep buying more!"

                Hi members. The supplier now has an online shop website www.pwsgreenline.co.uk I bought a composter a couple years ago and ended up with a horid black slimey mess at the bottom of my garden. It was so bad my neighbour complained of the smell. I took the mess and the cheap plastic bin to the dump and started again! I was in Sweden on holiday and was amazed at the large range of composters for sale in hardware shops. Not cheap but proper units that have evolved over 20 years. I wanted to buy one and bring back to UK!. Anyway I contacted the makers PWS Greenline and they put me in touch with PWS Greenline UK in Leics. I purchased a composter from them the garden model which was £70 (and proved to be well worth it) The composter works well I guess because it's designed to work in cold countries like Sweden! It even has a floor to stop vermin rats mice etc nesting / living in it! the lid locks on and is hinged, once composting is complete you can get at it easily via the large door at the bottom/ front. Anyway when I bought the unit I was given a free 14 page how to compost handbook and after reading it no wonder my previous attempts failed! The only things I use to make my own compost (and very successfully indeed) are my Greenline composter, sawdust, water, garden waste and kitchen peelings plus a great tool also made by Greenline, it's an aeration tool that also shows you if your composter is working by changing colour with a clever heat sensor. A bit hard to explain but it was the best £7.99 I have spent in years!!!!!! As all you fellow gardeners will know it is vital to get air into the compost to make it "compost down" heat is a natural reaction during this process and that is why you see heat steaming off the dung heap next to the stables / field! This tool goes down easily into the bin and the arms fold out when you pull it back up hence airing the ingredients and mixing action one of th e arms changes colour from dark purple to very bright pink once it detects heat, so no more need to wonder if it's working or having to put your arm down into the rotting heap! If the wing has not changed I add sawdust if it's to wet to soak up the moisture or I add some water if it is to dry and that is all I do. So to recap you can use this with any composter and have no need to use a garden fork and risk working holes through the side of your composter and or leg!

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                  10.12.2002 05:04
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                  Get down on your knees. Shove your hand in your soil. Pick up a handful and let it run through your fingers. Does it run freely? Then it lacks dung. Does it stick in your hand in a claggy lump? Then it lacks dung. Already, you can see where this op is going. The average garden is seriously deficient in humus and organic matter. We work our plots and borders year after year, expecting them to perform to our ever increasing demands with the occasional addition of some chemical fertiliser to which the manufacturer appends the epithet "Miracle", or similar. Chemical replacement nutrients are no substitute for natural nutrients produced by recycled material, which is after all, what Mother Nature does if left to her own devices. Organic matter, whether farmyard or stable manure, homemade compost, recycled waste, spent mushroom compost, leafmould or any other, contain essential nutrients and trace elements in ideal, natural proportions, which our scientists cannot emulate. And they provide moisture retentive and drainage properties, which are essential to good plant growth, and which cannot be replicated by the chemical companies. Artificial fertilisers are an imbalanced food source. They provide certain forcing ingredients which provide vigorous, visible top growth at the expense of all round good health and disease resistance. So you buy inorganic fertiliser which produces wonderful, lush foliage on a plant which has grown too quickly to establish its natural disease resistance. And so is susceptible to moulds and fungal diseases. And the forced soft growth is irresistible to aphids and other pests. So off you go to buy fungicides and insecticides. And they are made by . . ? No, surely not the same chemical companies which sold you the artificial fertilisers in the first place. Clearly, Aspen would not be so irresponsible as to suggest some sort of Conspiracy Theory. This humble contributor merely observes, and points out coincidences. It is worth noting, however, that Monsanto, the main player behind GM crop trials, is also the main producer of the herbicides which can curtail the spread of modified crops, should they get out of hand and make like triffids. Allegedly. Play safe and make your own garden compost. Please don?t be conned by the designer products in the designer gardening catalogues. You don?t need a tumbling barrel with 24 carat (carrot!) gold trimmings, and a proprietary chemical activator produced under an innocuous brand name by Mons . . . a major chemical manufacturer. Nope. All you need is a basic box made with posts and chicken wire, or some scrap timber. Put in all your vegetable kitchen waste, but not any animal by-products which attract vermin. Add leaves, dead stems, non-woody prunings - in fact anything out of the garden apart from diseased plant parts, woody stems, and perennial weed roots. Add some grass clippings, but not too much - no more than a third of the total volume. It is often advised to add layers of soil, but in my experience this is not necessary, though it does no harm. Also not essential, but very helpful, is the occasional sprinkling of high-nitrogen fertiliser, because the decomposition of green material is a process which uses nitrogen, and the addition of same speeds the process. Proprietary compost activators are basically high nitrogen fertilisers in fancy packets at inflated prices. To avoid artificial fertilisers, and achieve the same result, add a sprinkling of dried chicken manure, which is high in nitrogen. Keep your compost heap moist, watering it if necessary. Cover it with a piece of old carpet or similar, to keep the moisture and heat in. And mix it with a fork now and again, to aerate it. And in a few months you with have a crumbly organic soil conditioner good e nough to eat. Dig it in, and you will be amply rewarded. However, it goes without saying, if you have access to quantities of well-matured dung, this is even better. Sensitive souls should stop reading here, and rate accordingly. But it must be pointed out, in conclusion, that human urine is the best organic compost activator. So don't take the piss out of organics - get out there and put it back in. © Mike Clark 2002

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                    01.06.2001 06:04
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                    Making Compost Now that I live in a house with a reasonably sized garden rather than a small concrete covered back yard I feel that it is only right that I should do my bit to help the environment. So, rather than generating half a dozen bags full of grass clipping every time I mow the lawn, I recycle it in a composter. Step One: Buy a composter - although this isn't necessarily required if you want to take the budget route. I bought a 220 litre composter from B&Q for under £30, however, if you want to save your pennies, then an old plastic dustbin would suffice. If you do take the budget route you will need to remove the base. This is because the compost, when ready, will have rotted from the bottom up and will not be accessible otherwise. Step Two: Keep a bucket into which you should place suitable kitchen waste ie: salad and other vegetable waste, although NOT any waste meat products. Fish is fine to use however, and has the added advantage of annoying the local cats as they will be able to smell it but will not be able to get their dirty paws on it! Ensure that you empty the bucket into your composter, ideally every day, to prevent any creatures (including rats) taking a liking to your leftovers. I keep mine in the garage so that it is out of the way. Egg shells are also ideal for adding to your composter. Step Three: Add garden waste, such as grass clippings and leaves. Do not add large amounts of soil, although small amounts will help the process. Shredded newspaper is also a useful addition in order to give an improved texture to the final compost. Step Four: Remember to turn the compost occasionally. This will help the process along and to produce a finer and richer end result. A few other things to bear in mind: If you use any 'weed and feed' type additives on your lawn, ensure that you wait at least six weeks before you begin to use the grass clip pings for your compost again. There are methods whereby compost can be produced more quickly, although I prefer the simple and straightforward method. The main disadvantage is that it can take up to six months to start producing a usable compost. Compost is produced when bacteria break down the material, typically producing a final material that is approximately one third of the orignal amount. This process produces quite an amount of heat (up to 160 degrees Farenheit), which is also helped along the way when the sun shines on your composter. The great thing about compost is that within a year or two, the waste material that is produced from your garden produces should mean that it is self-sustaining and you shouldn't need to buy any more bags of compost from your local garden centre any more. Making your own compost is very much worth the wait. As well as knowing that you are doing your bit to help the planet it can help to save you money in the long run too, once you have made enough material to cover the cost of any initial investment. {An original Dooyoo opinion © Blackjane 2001}

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                      22.05.2001 20:12
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                      I have distant memories of a particularly vile compost heap at my primary school, we were forever being told off for jumping around in it. I think the game went something like this, take a smaller child and throw them in the heap and kick compost all over them until they cried, Ah happy days…… These days of course I try and avoid putting small children in compost heaps (unless they really annoy me). Why am I writing an op about a smelly heap of rotting vegetation?? Good question, this kind of thing is close to my heart I suppose I fancy myself as an environmentally friendly kind of person (which doesn’t mean I don’t use deodorant) The reason composting is important is that it diverts waste from landfill which is a rapidly diminishing commodity in our tiny island. This is why the government is so keen on helping out, that and an EU directive telling them they have to reduce the amount of waste to landfill by 25%. Which is approximately the amount of compostable waste in your bin. (Check your council, chances are they have a special discount available for buying composter bins) The other reason is that it can be used as a pretty good fertilizer and soil conditioner, which if you have a garden is a good thing isn’t it?? How does this miracle of nature work then?? Naturally occurring bacteria and fungi, small invertebrates (like earthworms and millipedes) break down vegetable waste and pretty much anything else for that matter the process from fresh waste to soil can takes anywhere between a few weeks and a few months depending on the type of waste and the weather conditions. Given the right conditions the natural process of decay is speeded up. Bacteria and fungi feed and multiply, giving off a great deal of heat, temperatures can reach as high as 60 o C in the center of a well managed heap. When the temperature drops, the creepy crawlies move in and complete the process of decomposition. T he kind of creepies you can expect are millipedes, springtails, slugs, mites, earthworms, spiders and centipedes. Quite a diverse little ecosystem. Here’s the science……Decomposition can occur in two ways either Anaerobic; without oxygen. This can be quite slow and gives off unpleasant gases including methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Aerobic; with oxygen, This can be quite rapid and can cause the heap to become quite hot. Aerobic decomposition does not usually produce unpleasant odours. I imagine most people would consider the aerobic composter to be the ideal situation and this is what requires the work, to maintain an aerobic heap it must Be kept well drained Have an equal mix “greens” (kitchen waste and fresh garden waste and “browns” (fallen leaves and shredded paper) Be turned regularly An indicator that your heap has gone anaerobic is a nasty niff. If you have plastic composters make sure they have holes in them to allow airflow through the heap, another way of introducing air is to put worms in the heap, they dig around leaving tunnels for the air to get in. Something you should bear in mind, which as a youngster I clearly didn’t, is that compost heaps can host pathogens (disease causing bacteria and viruses) and in some cases can cause allergic reactions. So basic hygiene should be observed. Composters can be bought from your usual garden centers, but I found knocking together a couple of old pallets into a box worked pretty well for me, you can pick them up from tips or factories usually for nothing. Alternatively just put the heap on the ground, nature isn’t generally fussy. Here are some simple methods for effective composting 1. The layering method, this is slow and cool Add a mixture of materials alternating 10 cm layers of waste with layers of soil, keep moist and the compost should be ready in three to six months. You can speed up the process by occasional turning. 2. The ‘all in together” method, this is fast and hot Store enough kitchen and garden waste to make a heap of about square yard. Put it in a bin, turn it several times a week. It will generate a lot of heat and the compost should be ready in three to six weeks. 3. The compost worm method fairly fast and cool Build up the heap like the layering method, but add composting worms (see my op about wormeries, shameless plug). About couple of thousand worms should do the trick. Keep the heap moist, but not too wet. The nice thing about this is the worms should turn the heap for you cutting down on your work. The heap should be ready in about three months. Adding worms to the fast heap wont work so well as worms don’t survive at temperatures above 30oC What you can add to a compost heap Vegetable and fruit scraps, fallen leaves, tea leaves, coffee grounds, vacuum cleaner dust, soft stems, dead flowers, used vegetable cooking oil, egg shells, old newspapers, lawn clippings, sawdust from untreated timber and wood ash What you can’t add to a compost heap Meat and dairy products, diseased plants, metals, plastic, glass, fat, magazines, large branches, weeds that have seeds or underground stems, bread or cake (may attract mice), bones, animal manures (especially the droppings of cats and dogs), Sawdust from treated timber. With a little bit of time and work you can divert a large amount of your waste and turn it into something useful. I’m not sure I should admit this but I find digging around my compost heap strangely satisfying, maybe I should put it down to childhood experiences……

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                        15.05.2001 06:08
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                        You can buy composters in garden stores but you don't need to have anything fancy. I made mine from an old wooden crate. The only alteration it needed was the front panel altered so that it slides up and down. This is a really easy way to get free compost. You can put vegetable peelings, grass clipings, tealeaves, potatoe peelings and lots of other waste material into your composter. The only rule is that it must be organic. You will be reducing your own personal impact on the environment too by providing a back garden recycling centre. You won't be throwing away all those valuable resources when the end product can really benefit your garden. In addition to helping the environment by reducing the waste going to landfill, your garden benefits from a free supply of pure organic compost restoring the fertlity and structure of the soil without using harmful chemicals. Break up heavy soils by digging this in and improve water retention in poor areas. Dig it into borders and your vegetable plot. Add to tubs, planters, dig in around trees and shrubs. Once you get your system organised you will have plenty of free compost and you'll soon see a difference in your garden.

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                          08.07.2000 18:21
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                          Can you believe someone called Dick Kitto wrote an entire book about making compost, well he did and it was full of great ideas. He inspired me and I hope I shall now inspire you. Making your own compost has many benefits it is cheap to produce (virtually free), your dustbin won't stink of rotting fruit and vegetable waste and you know your compost is made from the finest ingredients. I use a lot of compost in my large garden and so I have built my own bins from second hand wood. I have three bins built side by side, the first being about 1 metre square with the next section built slightly smaller and the final section even smaller (compost takes less space as it rots down). The compost in each bin is covered by an old carpet to keep the heat in and has a plastic roof to keep the rain out. However, if you have a smaller garden you may find buying a ready made bin is sufficient for your use. My system is not very labour intensive, heaps are turned once a year but it does take about two years for the compost to be ready for use. Turning your heap more often will help speed up the process. Everything imaginable is used to produce my compost - fruit and vegetable waste from the house (collected in a swing bin by the back door and later taken to the heap), nettles, weeds, grass clippings, shredded prunings, dog hair, horse manure with straw (free from my local stables). I don't find the need to use an activator because of the variety of ingredients. Neighbours who don't know where to get rid of garden waste even deliver their grass clippings and hedge trimmings to my door. I did read that urine is great for the heap, I have to say I haven't actually tried that! The largest section of the heap is for collecting the waste which is added as it is gathered. The middle section is the standing section which is left untouched for an entire year and the third section is the compost ready for use. As I use my compost during the planting season it is generally used up by July and so at this time of year the compost is turned. The middle section is turned into the smallest bin ready for use next season and the largest bin is turned into the middle section ready to stand. The largest bin is now empty and ready to start a new collection. Turning the compost aerates it which is essential to aid the rotting process, however, I do only turn the compost once a year. By using this system I have a ready made supply of compost which requires little effort. One word of warning here, never add meat to the compost because you will attract rats. Site the heap away from the house because although there is little or no smell the heat from the heap does attract mice and who can blame them on a cold winters night! Good luck and happy compost making.

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                          You can make it without spending a cent. Using compost improves soil structure, texture, and aeration and increases the soil's water-holding capacity. Compost loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water.